I think you are right on Hadron. Marketing is something that Samsung has invested in and it has paid off. Companies like HTC don't have the same kinds of funds to work with and that is a big reason phones stay relevant.
Another reason phones stay relevant is if you have the SAME phone on multiple carriers. The HTC One X did not come to T-Mobile or Verizon at all...and a variant came to Sprint but it is a "different" phone with a "different" name. Sure, VZW got the DNA, but how effective is a push for the HTC "One" line when only two out of four major carriers ever even had a phone with any kind of "One" branding (and they were totally different phones)? Then you have all of the late VX, XV, or whatever the heck they are called and OMG is the only initials you remember because...it's nuts! What a cluster! Everyone knows what a Galaxy S3 is because it is on every major carrier and many regional carriers.
Now Moto and Google...they could make a HUGE marketing campaign for this phone. And they have the power to push the carriers in the direction they want. Verizon is usually the exception to this but Moto and VZW have a good working relationship it would seem and if they get all the carriers on-board with this one device with no variants, and then just put on a marketing blitz...they really can't lose.
But you have to make the specs good...and good enough to stay relevant in "our" eyes. Average consumers may not know enough to care...but they usually know enough to ask someone who does. In my opinion, you have to win over the phone geeks. All the press events...that's who is being addressed...the phone geeks. Average consumers are not thinking about upcoming press announcements for HTC, Motorola, or Samsung...They do not know what Google I/O is...nor do they care about any of that. They may hear a story on the news about it but it will probably be forgotten quickly.
Myself: 2014 Kia Soul+, LG G3, Motorola iPhone 6, Nexus 7 (2013), multiple Google TVs
Wife and Kids: iPhone 5, iPad 4th Gen, HTC Droid DNA, Galaxy Tab 3 (7"), iPhone 4S, Nexus 7 (2013)
Retired: Moto X, Motorola Droid Razr M, HTC Droid DNA, Galaxy Nexus, Thunderbolt, Droid Pro, Fascinate, Motorola Droid 1, 3 & 4, Transformer TF101, Galaxy Tab (7" WiFi), Archos 70